Room on North Cowichan’s trails for everyone; planning key to future harmony

There is room for all users of forest trails in North Cowichan to enjoy them without conflict or friction, according to Dr. Tom Roosendaal.

There is room for all users of forest trails in North Cowichan to enjoy them without conflict or friction, according to Dr. Tom Roosendaal.

Roosendaal, president of the Cowichan Trail Stewardship Society, said with proper education and signage programs for the use of the trails, as well as separating biking and hiking trails in some circumstances, a proper balance can be found that would be acceptable to all trail users.

Roosendaal was reacting to a delegation that was made at the Municipality of North Cowichan’s council meeting on Nov. 16 that maintained that council was appeasing the local cycling community with its new Parks and Trails Master Plan, which is still in its draft stage, at the expense of the hiking community.

“The vast majority of the most vocal people on any issue, including this issue, can be found at both its extreme ends, but the vast majority who use the local trails with no conflict with other users are not vocal,” Roosendall said.

“In fact, the vast majority of interactions on our trails are ones of mutual respect, community spirit and trail stewardship. The society wants to be a moderating force and not see the new trails plan being shaped by the vocal minority.”

Ian Milne told council on Nov. 16 that he is worried there is “a definite leaning towards the takeover of the municipal forest reserve by recreation and mountain bike interests in particular.”

He said another big concern was that bikers are pushing other users off trails with their aggressive behaviour.

North Cowichan councillors, who were reviewing the new parks and trails plan that is being prepared by staff for the first time, decided at the meeting that they wanted to discuss it thoroughly at a committee of the whole meeting first before bringing it to the council table again for action.

Roosendaal said the CTSS was formed three years ago specifically to deal with similar conflicts on Maple Mountain and has worked successfully since then to bring the existing trail network on that mountain “out of the shadows”.

He said most of North Cowichan’s many trail systems were made without any consultations or master plans, resulting in a “spiderweb of trails” that were designed for the uses they were created for, from hiking to mountain biking.

“Our mandate has always been to develop and maintain mixed-use trails for hikers and bikers in a sustainable fashion,” he said.

“We feel proper signage and education programs on trail use and etiquette in North Cowichan, and the complete separation of some of the trails for different uses, is an important part of this process.”